Review: Hope and Red by Jon Skovron

Review: Hope and Red by Jon SkovronHope and Red by Jon Skovron
Published by Orbit on June 30th 2016
Pages: 416
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher

Thanks to Orbit for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


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three-stars

In a fracturing empire spread across savage seas, two young people from different cultures find common purpose. A nameless girl is the lone survivor when her village is massacred by biomancers, mystical servants of the emperor. Named after her lost village, Bleak Hope is secretly trained by a master Vinchen warrior as an instrument of vengeance. A boy becomes an orphan on the squalid streets of New Laven and is adopted by one of the most notorious women of the criminal underworld, given the name Red, and trained as a thief and con artist. When a ganglord named Deadface Drem strikes a bargain with the biomancers to consolidate and rule all the slums of New Laven, the worlds of Hope and Red come crashing together, and their unlikely alliance takes them further than either could have dreamed possible.

Hope and Red could be the fun read you are looking for, especially if you love stories about thieves and vengeance, and warrior women. The two main characters are in quite different settings, each with intriguing elements. The story follows these two characters whose lives are both shattered from what they knew when they were young. Their paths after their tragedies are very different, yet similar in some ways. Here is the thing about this book. It is full of familiarity and predictability. These are not necessarily bad, depending on what you are looking for. I mean, there is a reason certain elements become familiar and predictable. It’s because generally, people enjoy them! If you are craving an easy, fun read with adventure and ups and downs, this could be good.

I am always a sucker for stories of women who break the normal gender barriers. So, for this, I love that Hope is being trained to be a Vinchen warrior. This training is not easy, and she is certainly not accepted among the men of the order. But she powers through with dedication and becomes a fierce warrior. She becomes proof that, given the chance, there are women who can accomplish the same levels (or greater) as men. Hope faces some interesting dilemmas as she is so driven by vengeance, she has to at some point evaluate that. At what point does vengeance cost you more than it will gain?

Now, another thing that I noticed was Hope’s inconsistent adherence to a code of honor that she followed as part of her warrior training. This is a hard one to explain without an example, but I usually try to not go into too many concrete details in my reviews. So, while I don’t really think this is a major spoiler, I will put it in spoiler tags just in case. View Spoiler » Maybe there are just some nuances to the warrior code that differentiates these scenarios and I just missed it.

Honestly, while the books characters go by “Hope” and “Red” they are really “Mary Sue” and “Gary Stu”. These two characters accomplish amazing things through the greatest odds. Really, its kind of unbelievable what they can do, but I think that is also the point. This is a fantastical tale of two characters that are in many ways larger than life. This is one of those things that can come down to reader preference, because sometimes it is just plain fun reading about a character doing the impossible and somehow always managing to come out on top. There’s a reason why you see that in books, it can be very fun! I think it is just better to know upfront, because I know that I, personally, have to be in the mood for that when I pick up a book.

I found Red to be a very likable character. He did not grow up in the rough part of town he lives in now, and had a softer, kinder life for his first few years. This seemed to give him a little bit different perspective. But life can be unexpected, and he found himself a very unlikely mother figure. It was interesting seeing his determination to make a name for himself, and see his skill make it seem feasible. Like I said earlier, he is definitely a bit of a Gary Stu, but he is at least a fun Gary Stu. The kind I don’t mind inviting into my books.

And lastly, I don’t really want to make this a major point, but decided to bring it up. I am usually quite accepting of whatever lingo an author wants to use. I am far from easily offended or put off. But I have to be honest. The term “cunt-droppings” (which refers to foolish people) really started to annoy me. The first time, I confess, I actually chuckled a little. The second time I was ambivalent. But the third time I decided it irked me. And every instance of it after that bothered me more. I think part of it was I never liked the term “slice” that is used for women in this book. Its usually a derogatory term (depending on who is using it). That in and of itself is not the issue for me. I just didn’t like it because it felt a little too visually representative of the female genitalia. Maybe that is a short coming on part, but it is my honest reaction. So, pair that with referring to people as “cunt-droppings” (also a little too visual) and I just  about had it. Maybe others won’t have these hang ups. I usually don’t, so I was surprised to struggle with these terms in this book.

Overall, this can be a fun read for the right reader. There is plenty of action and fun. I may have had a few issues, but I don’t think they will be universal problems for all readers. If it sounds interesting, I think it is worth giving a read.

 

Review Originally posted on The Speculative Herald.

three-stars

10 thoughts on “Review: Hope and Red by Jon Skovron”

  1. I’m over half-way through this now, and I pretty much agree with you 100% on everything you said. It’s an extremely fun read, but Hope and Red and basically the ultimate Alpha with their skills (which I find too unbelievable, because there doesn’t seem to any solid foundation or reason as to why), and I the language is very strange for this story. The story has a fun, fast-paced feel to it – with, in my opinion, a ya-romance – but the language is so mature, it doesn’t feel right at all.
    DJ (@MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape) recently posted…Comic Book Review: Starve #7 (Starve #7) by Brian WoodMy Profile

  2. Nice review Lisa 🙂 I wrote my own review of this book and didn’t get the same feel from it as you did. I absolutely loved it and thought that the world created by the author was fantastic (I thought the piracy was great). Hope and Red are both great at what they do but I felt that there was ample explanation for this (particularly at the end for Red, I don’t want to spoil it). Hope was trained by someone akin to a Grandmaster and carries a legendary blade so she would be a highly-skilled warrior.
    I do get your issues with the terminology though, “cunt-droppings” was a little ‘on the nose’ and slightly unnecessary. I hadn’t thought about the term ‘slice’ in the context either but now you mention it…eurgh.
    This was a great review though, honest and balanced. Thank you for posting 🙂

    1. you know, my review may sound a bit harsher than what my overall enjoyment level was. It was a fun read. But, even with the reasoning behind why they were so incredibly good at things, it doesn’t really change that they were so incredibly good at things. 🙂 And it doesn’t necessarily mean its negative, things like this can be incredibly fun to read (thats why they are so popular and common)
      Lisa (@TenaciousReader) recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday – The Immortal Throne by Stella GemmellMy Profile

  3. I have just bought this book and the fact that it featured a ‘women who break the normal gender barriers’ was one of the main reasons that I decided to pick this book up. Great balanced review which I feel has helped to prepare me for reading this book. Thank you for your thoughts.
    Deborah @ Hills of Books recently posted…July reading Wrap-upMy Profile

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